Tag Archives: City of Worceser

Gordon is parked in yum yums … Worcester discussions on race still a joke  

By Gordon Davis

Bait and switch came to mind as I sat listening last night to the speakers at the City of Worcester’s race dialogue sponsored by the City Manager’s Committee against Bias and Hate. Although billed as a discussion of race and a summary of the notes collected during Worcester’s summertime hearings on race, which were conducted by the Department of Justice, it was only a rah-rah session for Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. He spoke for a long time about the things he has done. Neither the City Manager nor any of the scheduled speakers said a single word about or used the phrase “BlackLives Matter.”

Many in the City are either afraid of or disagree with BlackLives Matters. This is sad, as even the Presidential candidates have spoken to the issues.

City Manager Augustus spoke of the Chief Diversity Officer he has hired, Dr. Malika Carter. She was in the audience and, curiously, not at the speakers’ table.

This is not a good sign, as many Black women in City government have been marginalized and forced out. I wish her good fortune and success.

The City Manager then spoke of the sensitivity training that Worcester police officers have undergone. He did not say anything about transparency of Worcester police policies and misconduct. These remain secret and unavailable for public scrutiny.

The other speakers were from private agencies and non-profit organizations. They all said the right things, and I have to also say that they do good work, given their limited resources and mission statements.

The most interesting and, I think, useful of the non-profits is Community Legal Aid (CLA). It helps people with their civil cases such as housing, unemployment and discrimination. Valerie Zolezzi-Wynham, managing attorney, spoke how CLA diversified its staff and hired an outreach attorney specifically for the Asian community which has not much used CLA’s services. It also hired an Educational Attorney to help students with their cases and “level the playing field.”

Mabel Milner is the chair of the City Manager’s Committee against Bias and Hate. This Committee organized the meeting. Ms. Milner facilitated the meeting.  According to the City Manager, her Committee has been enlarged to be more inclusive.

Ms. Milner indicated that Reverend Tally, the minister at the AME ZION Church, heads a subcommittee that reviewed the notes from last summer DOJ hearings.

Rev. Tally apologized for the lateness of the summary and said that the review of the notes was not complete. He pointed out that the raw information could be found on the City of Worcester’s website.

The speaker for the NAACP, Pat Yancy, indicated that it had held a demonstration when a hangman’s noose was seen at the Post Office in the Denholm Building and that it held a support service for the Black church goers killed in South Carolina.

Members of the Progressive Labor Party had passed out flyers with five demands to fight racism in Worcester:

Transparency of Worcester Police policies and misconduct

Stop arresting students at schools

Fully funded Public Schools

Jobs for Worcester residents

End City of Worcester use of police force against BlackLives Matter and the poor

Reverend Tally promised the audience that there will be more discussions like the one last night.

I hope he is wrong.

The meeting was a joke on the people of Worcester. 

Like the DOJ hearings during the summer, people who should have attended the meeting boycotted it.

The words that needed to be said were not said.

Leadership is needed in this city. Many people in leadership positions are just misguided or pretending.

The Feb. 5 Worcester NAACP meeting: WPD, WFD and diversity

By Gordon T. Davis

Each Worcester NAACP meeting I go to seems to have a ton of information and some surprises.

The meeting on February 5, 2015, was no different.

There was a report by the Worcester NAACP housing committee coordinator of a tenants union called the Fruit-Sever Tenants Union which is in a legal battle with a local landlord operating under HUD rules.

Some of the Tenants Union’s members have been threatened with arrest by the Worcester Police, should they enter the building and meet with the tenants who are also members.

Reportedly, this is against HUD rules for HUD associated buildings. The issue is now being worked on by Congressman Jim McGovern who is reported to be clarifying the rules with the Worcester Police.

At least one member of the NAACP expressed criticism of the threats of arrest made by the Worcester Police.

Worcester Police Officers Spencer Tatum and Miguel Lopez, both in the WPD gang unit, gave a presentation of the City’s efforts to diversify the Worcester Police Department.

Officer Lopez is also the Affirmative Action Officer for the Worcester Police Department. Although that position has no job description, he does outreach to the different communities about the Civil Service Examination that applicants for the Police Department must pass.

The Civil Service Exam is given every two and it is used by all of the cities and towns’ police departments to choose candidates. An exam taker must be between 21 and 32 years of age in order for the Worcester Police Department to consider the exam taker for a police officer position. The City’s thinking is that it wants about 32 years of service from each police officer.

There is a form of forced retirement at age sixty-five. It is not clear to me that this practice does not violate anti-age discrimination statutes.  People under 40 are not protected by the anti-age discrimination statutes.

The Worcester Police Department is under a consent decree agreed to in 1980s that require a Worcester police force of 19.9 percent Black and Latino officers.

The Asian population is not included in the consent decree nor are women.

Presently, there are no Asian women on the Worcester Police Department.

During the last Civil Service exam seven Asian women passed the exam, but they were quickly hired by police departments in other Massachusetts divisions.

There are today two Black women police officers in Worcester; both of whom are near retirement.

Veterans passing the Civil Service Exam are by law chosen before other candidates. The military police who served in Guantanamo and who have taken the Civil Service exam will likely be hired first. It is not known how many military veteran exam takers will be White, Black, or Latino. Almost all Worcester Police officer applicants have BA degrees, although this is not a requirement.

The fee for taking the exam is $100.

One member of the NAACP said that he was interested in taking the exam, but he was unemployed. He asked if there were some funds available for test takers like him. Police Officer Lopez said there was a community group that paid for “minorities” who showed need to get money for the fee.

The Worcester Fire Department is also under a similar diversity consent decree as the Worcester Police Department.

When, surprisingly, the Worcester Fire Department reached its goal of 19.9 percent Black and Latino firefighters, it petitioned the courts to be relieved of the consent decree.

Subsequently, the percentage of Black and Latino firefighters in the Worcester Fire Department has steadily fallen.

It was suggested that the “minority communities” again sue the City of Worcester to have a new consent decree for the Worcester Fire Department.

Worcester Mayor Joe Petty …

elephant1

… told me a few hours ago HE WON’T BE DOING ANY PR with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at/in front of Worcester  City Hall or on our Worcester Common next week …

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“Busy all week.” Mayor Petty told me. (I took this pic of him, with his son, last summer!) He didn’t sound too excited about the wild animals in the circus … “Busy all week,” he said again.

Good enough for this gal!

Petty’ll pretty much be following the lead of former Worcester Mayor Joe O’Brien, whose office just stepped away from the whole Ringling elephant/wild animal horror show.

Petty also agreed with me: Fewer and fewer kids – people in their late 20s /early 30s – are into circuses that have wild animals. They don’t want to go – they skip the whole scene.

More and more young people just get the total up-side-down-ness of  forcing wild animals into a kind of servitude for humans. Cruel, cruel, cruel … THEY GET IT! I predict circuses with wild animals will soon go the way of the old circus “freak show,” a cruel term used not so long ago to describe hustlers parading people like “The Elephant Man” or little people, etc in front of large crowds, totally oblivious to their loneliness, sadness, emotional deprivation, often physical pain …

Most of Europe’s done it. Lots of other countries, too. Why is the U.S. lagging behind? We try to be first when it comes to human rights. Why not animal rights? The two are inextricably bound!

– R. Tirella

p.s. Petty also said, quite nicely, that YES, he listens to/hears me! Very nice telephone conversation. I felt like I was talking with a smart, sensitive guy! Made me feel good about my city!

Green Island update

By Maureen Schwab

On Sept. 15, Green Island residents woke to a steady rain that at first seemed like nothing out of the ordinary. On that morning, neighborhood children waited for and boarded school buses at the usual times and places, and were safely transported to school. Shortly thereafter, the intensity of the rain increased and as it did, so did the level of rain water flowing in the streets of Green Island.

At the height of the storm, water at the corner of Canton St. and Quinsigamond Ave was approximately 3ft high, and Crompton Park was submerged under at least 1 ft. of water and raw sewage. The community center, located in Crompton Park sustained damages to goods and property which later had to be discarded. . A friend who lives on Scott St. told me that a car in her driveway was completely submerged b, and the first floor apartment had flooded. Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun came out by noon. Yes, there was property damage, but no one was hurt and the children returned home safely from school if nothing had ever happened.

The week end before this disaster hit Green Island; I was strolling through Canal Fest. The centerpiece of the event was a recreation of the Blackstone Canal on Harding St, upon which one could take a canoe ride. As I watched the rain flood Quinsigamond Ave that Thursday, I could not help but to think back to Canal Fest. Though inappropriate to be thinking so at the time; I thought how wonderful it would be to have water flowing through Worcester, and that here (Green Island) is where the water is, and was and always will be. The neighborhood is situated above the point where two of Worcester’s largest waterways the Mill Brook (now contained within a man made structure) and the Middle River meet (in the vicinity of Brownian Square). When the rain is heavy, although buried beneath concrete and asphalt, the waterways will act like rivers.

Peter Tsigas, owner of Café Neo, 97 Millbury St, organized a meeting for residents and business owners to voice concerns and to hear from City officials regarding plans to help solve flooding problems in Green Island. The solution is neither easy nor inexpensive. City Manager M. O’Brien and Public Works Commissioner Robert L. Moylan plan to hold a community meeting in the future to discuss steps the city is taking to help alleviate future flooding.

The section of Crompton Park, at the corner of Canton and Harding that will be the site of the new playground was less affected than the community center. Several days after the flood, a bulldozer appeared to begin work on the playground project. It was upsetting to suddenly see the side of the hill that has been there for over a century torn apart to make way for the playground.

Robert Antonelli , Assistant Commissioner of the Park and Rec Dept., explained that the design of the playground includes adding structure and dimension to the otherwise flat hill , giving children added grassy areas to play on. Soon, we can look forward to three play structures an expanded swing area, and sturdy new fencing surrounding the area for safety. The project may be finished as soon as late fall, but a grand opening will be held no earlier than Spring of 2012.

We can also look forward to a wonderful bikeway. According to documents found on the Ma Dept. of Transpiration web site, Green Island will be the site of Segment 7 of the Blackstone River Bikeway, a 48 mile paved trail that connects Providence R.I. and Worcester.
Construction is expected to begin Winter 2013-14. The proposed path is along Quinsigamond Ave to Union Station, a distance of 2.6 miles. In addition, there are plans to make the bikeway a designated section of the East Coast Greenway, a 2,900 mile trail system that connects cities from Maine to Florida.

National Park status for parts of the Blackstone Valley, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution , is being promoted and supported by Congressman McGovern, State Senator Michael Moore and several city council members. Which parts of Worcester would be considered is yet unclear, but property on Harding Street, site of the Blackstone Canal and Quinsigamond Ave, part of the Mill Brook should be included.

Green Island has a gritty, hard boiled history made up of factories, immigrants, scoundrels and thieves, three deckers and several generations of men and women who worked extremely hard not only to survive, but for their children to succeed. It is very much a part of the Industrial Revolution history and story and should be included.

Green Island is ready to take on an important and improved new status if a National Park, a beautiful bikeway and ongoing improvements to the neighborhood continue. The quality of life for residents will improve as the neighborhood develops its historical and recreational features.

In June of 2011, The Main South Community Development Corp was awarded $600,000. Which will be used to develop brownfields into housing on Grand St? A small piece of property on Quinsigamond Ave, owned by NSTAR, also a brownfield , is property that can someday be part of a national park, or at least a segment of a beautiful bikeway.

This land has been chosen (without neighborhood discussion, input or consent) to be the home of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) operations and maintenance facility , with the full support of our city officials. Also on Quinsigamond Ave, The Department of Transportation plans to move a storage facility to this location. Plans for both projects are still pending the purchase of the land and other factors.

Why is Green Island being considered for these pollution producing projects with the approval of City Hall when we stand a chance to become a part of a National Park? We lost our Community Development Corporation and with that we lost any voice that would argue for environmental and social betterment in this neighborhood. Our neighborhood leadership, what there is of it, does not take Green Island’s historical importance seriously and prefers to think that all of the improvement should to be economic.

The Canal District, of which Green Island is a part, is much, much more than the area above Kelley Sq. The real history and yes; THE WATER is right down here in Section Two, Green Island. I sincerely hope people reading this article will respond and join in efforts to bring bike paths, national parks ,fresh air and a new sense of pride to Green Island.